opinionBy Maryam Ahmadu-Suka
Kaduna — Last year, twin bomb blasts rocked the Jaji Military Cantonment in Kaduna and the incident inflicted pains and sorrows on many families. But instead of worsening the relationship between the soldiers and the civilian communities, it has rather strengthened the relationship between the two, reports Weekly Trust. Memories of the twin bomb blasts that rocked the Jaji Military Cantonment, Kaduna, on November 25, 2012 are still fresh in the minds of the authorities and the families of the victims. But rather than strain the relationship between the military personnel and the civilian population in the area, it has further strengthened it.
The cantonment, which is located in Jaji town in Igabi LGA, about 35 km from Kaduna, houses the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), a tri-service training Institution for the Nigerian Armed Forces. They include the Army, Air Force and Navy, the Infantry Corps Center (ICC), the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Center (NAPKC), the Warrant Officers Academy (WOA) and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry (NASI).
In the wake of the blasts, which destroyed the cantonment's church and reportedly killed about 21 people, Senate Committee Chairman on Defence and Army Senator George Sekibo had urged the Kaduna State Government to relocate the communities within and around the cantonment, saying they constituted serious security threats to the military facility and personnel.
However, the District Head of Jaji, who is also the Matawallin Zazzau, Alhaji Danjuma Mustapha Adamu, said the unfortunate incident has not marred the community's relationship with the military. He said, rather, it has strengthened it.
Adamu, who has been the District Head of Jaji for eight years now, said members of his community comprising Jaji, Gadan Marake, Ungwan Pate, Labar, Nasarawa Labar, Kango Dam, Sanhu, Kan Zaure, Birnin Yero and Kampanin Pate and the military personnel have been living in peace, even after the incident.
"Our relationship with the military in Jaji, more especially, the Command and Staff College and other segments of the Nigerian military operating in Jaji area has been very cordial. If there is anything that concerns military and civilians, we quickly get in touch with the military authorities and they always show some understanding and resolve it immediately without any rancor," he said.
He said majority of the community members are farmers, and it takes time for them to get acquainted with military procedures.
"The people living around the cantonment used to have free access into the Cantonment, but today, the situation is different. Since the bomb blasts, movements are restricted. But the military have eased the situation and opened another road for use of villagers who come to Jaji daily," he said.
He added thatt "about 100 youths mostly from the neighboring villages were employed by the military authorities as cleaners. This has helped a lot in easing tension. Also, the military offers free medical care to the communities and enlighten them on public as well as civil military affairs."
Also, Alhaji Salisu Abdullahi, District Head of Kerawa Jaji, comprising Osono, Sarkin Makama, Jurawa, Sabon Gari, Sharu, Kafin Sani, Marechi, Karewa, Karshi and Dalatu villages, said his community and the military personnel have been living peacefully since his ascension to the throne 13 years ago.
"We have been living peacefully with the military since my assumption as the district head, but you know with human being, there has to be one problem or the other which is quickly resolved. This village is old; it was here even before the military cantonment was established. The problem facing the community is the one facing the whole country.
"Prior to the era of insecurity, we (the civilians) had free access to the cantonment, one would walk to a lot of places in the cantonment without anyone asking you questions which is not the case now. Majority of the people here are farmers and need easy access to their farms through the cantonment, but due to the security situation, that freedom no longer exists," he said.
The district head said "when a problem occurs and it has to do with land, the soldiers will say a particular land-area is theirs, whereas the community claims the land is theirs since the community was there before the establishment of the cantonment. But I can assure you that even that has not brought so many misunderstandings in the community due to the synergy between the community and the military personnel.
He said "over the years, people have sought for employment for their wards in the cantonment which did not yield results until the coming of the present Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College who took it upon himself to employ over 100 of our youth."
He called on the commandant to put in more efforts to help the people in the surrounding communities with a view to having a more peaceful coexistence between the military personnel and the civilians.
The Imam of the Jaji Cantonment Mosque, Major Lawal Abubakar Ibrahim, said the relationship between civilians and military personnel has been very cordial in and around the cantonment, adding that "we offer different services for Muslims including computer training, western and Islamic education, vocational skills training and business center services to the people within and outside Jaji Cantonment.
"We also give scholarships to orphaned and indigent children to support them in the school. There are also different vocational skills training for women, especially widows so that they can have a means of livelihood and also share food stuff to the less privileged in the community during Ramadan," he said.
The Senior Chaplain Assistant at the St. Peter's Catholic Church, Jaji Military Cantonment, Staff Sergeant Francis Akpang said "there is no discrimination between Muslims and Christians within and outside the Jaji cantonment. We have friends in and out of Jaji and they visit us without any hindrance."
Staff Officer, Quantity Survey and Civil Engineering, AFCSC, Colonel Shakiru Egun Jobi while highlighting some of the capital projects executed by the college under the present commandant, said 30 families have so far benefited from the renovation package.
He said "with the upgrade of facilities especially sporting facilities, both civilians and military personnel participate in sporting activities unlike before."
Commandant of the College, Air Vice Marshal Eko Effion Osim said he has adopted various security measures to prevent any anti-social behavior, while maintaining a cordial relationship with the members of the community.
"We came in here when the insecurity was at its peak and since then, we have put in place all the security measures to ensure that no major incidents occur and those measures have really helped," he said.
"We blocked all the illegal access roads into the Cantonment, putting up observation posts, installed CCTVs, and do a lot of patrols. We have also established a lot of check points especially inside the communities which is yielding results. We have had relative peace and we will continue taking serious security measures to ensure that the peace we are enjoying now is sustained," he added.
He said all the houses damaged during the recent bomb blasts have been repaired.
Colonel Jobi said "There are 19 villages that make up Jaji and Karewa district where the college is situated. We got the district heads in the areas to guide us, we have to employed 100 persons from the villages and made sure the people are from the 19 villages of Jaji and Karewa districts.
"Unfortunately, the villagers did not have the required qualification, but we employed 100 of them and paid them the minimum Federal Government wage of N18, 000 directly into their bank accounts. So far they have been working with the college and with that, the relationship between the civilians and the military has been strengthened economically and in terms of social interaction. We also pay the district heads monthly grants for security," Jobi said.
He thanked the Federal and Kaduna State governments for the support they have been rendering to the college, especially for the payment of the medical bills of some victims of the bomb blasts. He also expressed happiness for government assistance in creating a western road for the villagers, instead of a thoroughfare through the main barracks entrance, as access roads to their farms or homes.